Lewis Hamilton fears Ferrari could hold an advantage of half a second over Mercedes as pre-season testing in Barcelona draws to a close.
Ferrari enjoyed a strong start during the first test and has carried on that form to set the fastest two times of pre-season so far, with Sebastian Vettel’s 1m16.221s on the final morning just edging teammate Charles Leclerc by 0.01s. Valtteri Bottas put Mercedes 0.34s further back on Friday, but Hamilton believes the gap between the two teams could be even greater than that.
“Ferrari are currently fastest,” Hamilton said. “I’m not quite sure (by how much), but I think it is potentially half a second. Something like that potentially. We will be analyzing a lot from this test and there will be some mods that we will try to implement for the race. There is obviously not a lot of time but over the next week we will try to gain another tenth at least in our understanding of the car.
“The car is old now and worn and torn, so we will have new components and all of that stuff will come along. It will be interesting. We really won’t know, because everyone will have different power modes and fuel usage, and you don’t know what everyone is doing. So Melbourne will be the first time you get a sight of it and then it will be a good four races before you know just where you stand.”
Mercedes has shown more comparable pace as pre-season testing has reached its conclusion, but Hamilton says it would be foolish to expect the gap to be any smaller than it currently appears to be.
“I’ve no reason to expect that to come down. Testing you have to take with a pinch of salt. You could get there and it could be bigger, you could get there and it could be less, you could get there and it could be equal. I really have no idea. There’s no way when you’re looking at GPS to say what fuel load they’re on and what engine mode they’re on.
“They’re faster on the straights than us, for example. Now, is that because they have their flexi-wings that they’ve had in the past that drops drag? Or are they more turned-up than us or are they just more efficient and just have less drag than us in general? Or are we heavier? So, we have no idea. We really won’t know until we get to the race.
“Of course, naturally we hope that it’s definitely not bigger than what we might see now — we hope that it’s better, but we can’t bank on that. So we just have to work towards trying to close that gap that we think might be there, or is there.”